HD single screen video with sound
One of the works in Adam Chodzko’s installation Room for Laarni, Image Moderator, which collectively explores the experience of being psychologically overwhelmed by the process of relentlessly viewing imagery flowing between communities and researches this through trying to empathise with the character of an image moderator. Same shows a skype chat between someone who is questioning Laarni, an image moderator based in the Phillipines, who works for a western social media company. Every day Laarni assesses thousands of images sent as messages between individuals to see whether they are acceptable or breach the moral guidelines determined by her employer. During this texted dialogue reflections on her screen and ambient sounds reveal the environment in which she works, but various elements within this visual and auditory ‘background’ begin to suggest a peculiar surreality and dream-like state to the encounter. Same explores Chodzko’s interests in affect, empathy and states of information fatigue particularly through being overwhelmed by the visual, as encountered between individuals and the communities they are part of and as revealed through the fluid exchange of images. It extends his ongoing exploration of the “space between us”; of remoteness and intimacy, of public and private space, and the interweaving of documentary and fiction focusing on the network of fantasies (and their associated feelings) apparent in our culture’s relentless dissemination of digital imagery that both link and disrupt the relationship between an individual and a ‘crowd’.
Excerpt from Room for Laarni, Image Moderator catalogue:
I first came across her existence a few years ago via a conversation. A friend of mine had set up a social networking site; a crude one for teenagers called something like ‘Get on 1!!’. They’d had problems with people using the system to disseminate child pornography and, although he personally thinks there should be no internet censorship, they now use an image moderator from a company based in the Philippines. (It’s cheap.) A colleague of his goes out to see her every couple of years to check everything is ok, but otherwise their image moderator remains an entirely remote ‘filter’.
I became fascinated by this woman and her job. And I imagined sitting next to her watching this imagery flash up on her screen every few seconds. I wondered about ‘us’ through her eyes. I wanted to make a piece of work about her and her role, so was planning to travel out to the Philippines to meet her, but I couldn’t afford to. More recently I thought I would try a different approach that would make the most of her physical distance from me and the lack of information I had about her.
I needed to give her a name so chose Laarni, a Tagalog name meaning ‘princess’, ‘high heaven’.
So yes, an image moderator really exists. Like a moderator on an online forum or comments section, but in this case just for images. It can be done by a computer, but apparently it is better to use ‘live’ moderators…
[She] …is inevitably building a picture of us (a truthful or highly inaccurate one) through the pictures she is sent, I am trying to build a picture of her thoughts during this process of hers. I can imagine the building, her office, and the area in which it is, but this mental image keeps shifting. (Sometimes the room is full of other image moderators, sometimes she seems to be the only one there.) I mostly imagine it as horribly repetitive work but sometimes I experience flashes of sublime amazement when I glimpse the absurdity of our present reality; a world where we have created a need for ‘image moderation’ .
It strikes me that Laarni doesn’t just moderate images, she’s mediating a whole community. And this seems to link to something consistent in your work over many years – self-constituting communities built around over-specific shared interests – such as Reunion; Salò., 1998 or Product Recall, 1994. Of course, these were pre-digital projects, but they seem to anticipate the way that the internet becomes the most efficient means for shared obsessions to coalesce. But the implication of Laarni, meanwhile, is that there is a need for moderation. Many of your works seem to involve moderators, modifiers – things that change your perception within a bigger field of information. …
Room for Laarni, Image Moderator catalogue
Conversation between Jennifer Higgie, Andrew Renton, Adam Chodzko
Editor Andrew Renton. Published November, 2013
Download pdf of catalogue